Thursday, August 2, 2012

IVF mix-up: Who pays for baby's upkeep?

A COURT battle over compensation claims for an in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) sperm mix-up will also determine if the medical centre has to pay for the baby's upkeep till adulthood.

Thomson Medical and Thomson Fertility Centre (TFC) argue that to pay for such upkeep is against public policy and not recognised in law as a damage claim.

TFC and three others are being sued over a mix-up in sperm samples which led to a woman having a baby with a stranger's sperm instead of her husband's.

The woman, 36, alleges negligence and wants the court to assess the amount of damages payable to her, citing personal losses, trauma and long-term costs for the child. She is also seeking special damages amounting to about $700,000.

The woman, represented by lawyer S. Palaniappan, cannot be named as the case is centred on a minor.

TFC, defended by Senior Counsel Lok Vi Ming and two others, filed their defence statement last month.

A TFC spokesman said yesterday that the defence filed was consistent with its stand to accept responsibility for the clinical errors in the IVF process that led to the incident in 2010.

But it made clear that this admission of liability is not to be construed as admitting to the woman's claim for the upkeep of the baby till the child is financially self-reliant.

The issue stands to be decided here for the first time and it is understood that court opinion abroad is divided.

An Australian appeals court in 2009 awarded damages for the cost of raising an unwanted additional child conceived through IVF.

The court had then established the duty of care in IVF went beyond ensuring a successful pregnancy, said Canberra-based lawyer Thena Kyprianou in a law journal last year.

But in a British case, it is understood that public policy reasons, such as the recognition that life cannot be measured in monetary terms, were cited for not providing damages for the child's upkeep.

A TFC spokesman said: "TFC will leave it to the courts to decide on the validity of these claims and to assess a fair amount of damages due."

The first High Court hearing on the case, involving an application for anonymity of the mother, was held on Tuesday. TFC supported the move.

A pre-trial conference is due next week.


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